First Pitch: Pirates are Looking for a Way to Minimize Pitching Injuries

The Pittsburgh Pirates gave the local media some updates on injured pitchers yesterday. A specific quote from Nick Burdi drew my attention because I’ve been looking for an opportunity to share some information I got the other day.

Burdi told the media the following (copied from Adam Berry’s link):

I’ve come to realize I wasn’t maximizing my potential on the mound. I was throwing at a high velocity but not doing it in the right biomechanic way,” Burdi said. “That was the big thing we started on with the throwing progression in November, maximizing how we can use the lower half and the ribcage, abs, all this stuff to be able to throw and have the arm along for the ride.”

The other day we reported that the Pirates hired former pitcher Victor Black to be a minor league assistant pitching coach. I talked to him briefly before posting the article, but heard back from him two days later and got a quote about his job specifics. He’s going to be in Bradenton all year, working with rehabbing pitchers and helping some starters transition to the bullpen. He’s not just working with pitchers who were already injured, he’s here to help pitchers avoid those injuries in the first place by using what he has learned over the years of pro ball.

Black had an unorthodox delivery and missed his share of time due to injuries over his ten-year career. He had to do what Burdi is learning to do now, maximize his potential while minimizing risk of injury.

“The career I had playing was filled with ups and downs,” Black said. “Injury seemed to pop up almost every other year. When I had decided to retire from playing the frustration of never really understanding why I couldn’t stay healthy brought on a desire to learn and figure out why. I was blessed to meet a guy named Dave Coggin who blew the lid off of everything I thought about throwing. That relationship has now led me into the field I now work. My pursuit to walk alongside other guys as they take steps towards their dreams and help establish cleaner arm paths to prolong health, increase velocity and command the strike zone. This is part of what I’m hoping to do being back in the Black and Yellow. I began my journey as a Pirate and I want to give back to those who first gave to me.”

As mentioned in the original article, Black has his own throwing program, which stresses health first as a way to increase command and then velocity. He’s on a quick path to coaching which shows the impressive knowledge he has picked up in a short time. He was still active during the 2018 season and now he has a coaching position in pro ball. With all of the injuries the Pirates had last year, Black has a chance to really make a difference with this team.

** That article linked above has more on Burdi, as well as updates for Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl, so it’s worth checking out.


One of my favorite videos. A guy from Australia doing a great Freddie Mercury impersonation, while singing a song by The Platters



Last night I watched LeBron James move into third place all-time in NBA scoring. It was the first NBA game I’ve watched in quite some time and to be honest, I turned it off about a minute after he passed Kobe Bryant. I’m an Atlanta Hawks fan and they are awful, so there hasn’t been a good reason to watch.

I used to watch a lot of NBA and NHL. I can’t watch either anymore. I watched hockey more for the physical nature of the game, while I played basketball quite often for about a five-year stretch. For people who liked the physical side of hockey, the game has changed too much for me to enjoy anymore. I didn’t like the European game when I watched often, so I didn’t want the NHL to take up that model.

The NBA has changed too much as well and watching last night was eye-opening how bad it has become. If you watched last night, you saw a stretch of bad turnovers, a stretch of missed three-point shots and nothing else, the typical touch fouls you wouldn’t dare call on the playground and a shockingly lackluster effort on defense by many players. It was no better quality of play than a mediocre NCAA game.

Before anyone says “get off my lawn”, I had no problem changing with baseball. It’s clearly a different game from the 1990-92 run, and before I wrote about the Pirates, I cheered for the Pirates and I don’t need to tell you how bad they were for a stretch. It’s a different game and I watch upwards of 200 minor league games each year thanks to the magic of

Some changes are acceptable over time. Some just aren’t. It’s all a matter of taste. If the Atlanta Hawks suddenly become good, I’ll watch again. For now, I just check the score and move on, since I don’t write for HawksProspects.


By John Dreker

Just two former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus there’s one transaction of note.

On this date in 1895 the Pittsburgh Pirates traded pitcher Ad Gumbert to the Brooklyn Grooms for catcher Tom Kinslow. Gumbert was 26 years old at the time of the trade. He was a native of Pittsburgh, who already had a 106-79 career record. For the Pirates he had a 15-14, 608 record in 1894. That ERA seems very high, but 1894 was one of the biggest years for offense in baseball history. Kinslow had just turned 29 years old prior to the trade. He was a platoon catcher for Brooklyn during the previous four seasons, playing an average of 67 games a year, while hitting over .300 twice and batting below .250 twice.

After the trade, Kinslow played just 19 games for the Pirates. He hit .226 with five RBIs and his catching skills seemed to get worse overnight, as he allowed 33 steals in 44 attempts. After the Pirates released him he had just 25 major league games left in his career, spread out over three different teams. Gumbert stuck around a little longer with his new team, but he had an 11-16 record in 1895 for a Brooklyn team that went 71-60 overall, so he didn’t exactly make this trade a win for the Grooms. The somewhat amazing thing about his poor record was the fact he was a much better hitter than the average pitcher of the day. Gumbert hit .361 that year with 13 RBIs in 105 plate appearances. He went 0-4 with Brooklyn in 1896, before moving on to the Phillies to finish his career later that season.

Josh Sharpless, pitcher for the 2006-07 Pirates. He was a 24th round draft pick in 2003. He had an incredible strikeout ratio in 2004 with Hickory (low-A) posting 104 K’s in only 74.1 innings. He pitched fewer innings in 2005, but somehow improved on his 13.2 K/9 ratio by striking out 59 batters in 36.1 innings, while splitting the season between high-A and Double-A. In 24 total games that year, he had a 4-0, 0.74 record with five saves. Sharpless began the 2006 season in Double-A and dominated with 30 strikeouts and an 0.86 ERA in 21 innings. He moved up to Triple-A and pitched well, earning his first Major League call-up on August 1st. He pitched for just over a week before injuring his ankle, forcing him to miss nearly a month. He returned in September to finish the season with a 1.50 ERA in 14 major league games.

In 2007, Sharpless began the year back in Triple-A, but was called up to the Pirates by late May. He did not pitch well, allowing runs in four of his six relief outings before being sent back to the minors. He was an early cut from the Major League camp in Spring Training of 2008, then was released prior to the start of the season. He pitched two more years in the minors before retiring as a player.

Kaiser Wilhelm, pitcher for the 1903 Pirates. He began his minor league career in Birmingham, Alabama, going a combined 29-27 over the 1901-02 seasons. As a 26-year-old rookie in 1903, he became a starter for the Pirates when the departures of Jack Chesbro and Jesse Tannehill left two rotation spots open. Wilhelm would make nine starts, completing seven of them, while throwing one shutout. He also pitched three times in relief and finished with a 5-3, 3.24 record in 84 innings for a Pirates team that not only won their third straight NL title, but went on to play in the first modern World Series. He was released just prior to the start of the 1904 season, then signed with the Boston Beaneaters, where he went a combined 17-43 over the next two seasons. Wilhelm made his last big league appearance as age 44 as a player-manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched in the minors until he was 46 years old.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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